On Being Silent

The slew of mean-spirited responses to my recent editorial got me thinking about being silenced.

A book about being silenced changed the way I look at relationships. I’ve been tempted to give copies to all my girlfriends but it feels too presumptuous.

Dana Crowley Jack’s book, Silencing the Self, talks about how women often store their anger, their complaints and thus their voices in relationships. Point is, that activity leads to self-silencing and, for some women, depression.

We learn to curb our tongues when our views are disparaged or ignored. I’m not talking about nagging or complaining. I’m talking about honest interaction that begins with: “I feel badly when you…”

Jack writes that women actively silence themselves.

Her research is based on conversations with women and reviews of their journals. She discovered that often women bury their authentic selves.

Even a bright, capable and strong woman can enter a relationship and find she diminished herself to gain her partner’s approval. But such behaviors “result in a kind of cultural lobotomy” in attempt to become what “she should be.”

Women bite their tongues (metaphorically speaking) from fear that they are not worthy and that their feelings are wrong. And as a result, we continue to put down ourselves.

I find that writing my views—despite the response from some morons—enables and empowers me in my blog and in the occasional op-ed piece.

But it’s more difficult in relationships with the tug and pull from a partner. I can ignore responses in editorials from folks I don’t know. But I can’t ignore my inner circle of friends and family.

But I refuse to hold my emotions at bay. Jack writes that “a woman vigilantly weeds out the expression of emotions and thoughts that threaten [a] relationship.”

May your emotional garden be overrun with weeds.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in authenticity, health, writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On Being Silent

  1. DNLee says:

    This is so true, and for me it began in my childhood. I’ve always felt like I was hatched from an egg and didn’t quite fit in with my family (either side). As a result, I began to self-silence as a young child, but I was a notorious mumbler and crazy-face-maker. I still make faces, and as I am told by many, my face tells on me everytime. LOL


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